Northern Flicker

The Evolution of Feathers

Thumbnail image for The Evolution of Feathers by Rich Hoyer 27 January 2011

The closest living relatives of birds, dinosaurs, and pterosaurs are crocodilians. Although these scaly beasts obviously do not have feathers today, the discovery of the same gene in alligators that is involved in building feathers in birds suggests that perhaps their ancestors did, 250 million years ago, before the lineages diverged. So perhaps the question to ask, say some scientists, is not how birds got their feathers, but how alligators lost theirs.

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